Reads Like A Dream

Francine Prose rejects the advice of a 7th grade teacher who cautioned students, “Never end a story with, ‘It was all a dream!’”:

Literature is full of dreams that we remember more clearly than our own. Jacob’s ladder of angels. Joseph saving Egypt and himself by interpreting the Pharoah’s vision of the seven fat and lean cows. The dreams in Shakespeare’s plays range as widely as our own, and the evil are often punished in their sleep before they pay for their crimes in life. Kafka never tells us what Gregor Samsa was dreaming when he awakens as a giant insect, except that the dreams were “uneasy.” Likely they were not as uneasy as the morning he wakes into.

She credits Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina with the boldest use of a dream in fiction:

Tolstoy showed it was possible to give a character a dream that strikes the reader as plausible, convincing, important enough to pay attention to, without being heavy-handedly symbolic or portentous. Or boring. What’s harder to recreate on the page is anything remotely resembling the experience of actually dreaming, with all the structural and narrative complexities involved, the leaps, contradictions, and improbable elements. Maybe that was my seventh-grade teacher’s problem: She’d read too many middle-school accounts of dreams that were nothing like dreams.